AN INQUIRY into the status of Radley Lakes is being extended to enable extra sessions to be held, due to the number of people who want to give evidence.

The inquiry, into whether the lakes should be designated as a 'village green', thereby preventing RWE npower using the lakes to dump waste ash from Didcot Power Station, was due to last four days, finishing today.

But due to the number of people who wished to support the application which would protect the area, there was insufficient time available for RWE npower to oppose the proposal. These objections will now be heard on June 20, 21 and 23.

Yesterday, the inquiry, held at Radley College, resumed with ecologist Dr Bob Eeles, director of the Oxfordshire Geology Trust, giving evidence.

He said the area was rich in natural history with birds, mammals, fish, rare plants, insects and moths, some of which were protected species.

It is seen as the last chance campaign group Save Radley Lakes has to block energy company RWE npower from dumping spent fuel ash from Didcot power station in Thrupp Lake.

When the inquiry at Radley College opened on Monday 20 witnesses supporting the village green application brought by Save Radley Lakes member Jo Cartmell were listed to be heard, but the figure has risen to 30 and their evidence will be completed today.

The mayor of Abingdon Peter Green told the inquiry that both the town council and Vale of White Horse District council opposed RWE npower's plans.

He said: "The lakes have and continue to be a popular amenity for the people of Abingdon and surrounding areas and should be protected. In Abingdon there are only two topics on people's minds and about which I am quizzed - Radley lakes and Abingdon's new traffic system."

Despite three evening sessions there is no time for objections to be heard and RWE npower has won planning permission for the dumping. If village green status is granted and Thrupp and neighbouring Bullfield lake are protected then npower will have to re-think its plans.

Save Radley Lakes chairman Basil Crowley said: "The extension of the inquiry is a further delay to npower's plans. Preparation work at Thrupp Lake will be put back and that poses a problem for npower."

Npower spokesman Kelly Brown said: "We have already stopped work following the discovery of a coot's nest and a swan's nest and will have to wait until the end of the nesting season in August so an extended inquiry will not be a problem. It is important that this complex issue is properly explored through the inquiry."